COLUMBUS, Ohio — The gloom that hung over Ohio Stadium on Saturday at noon cast a fitting throwback vibe. In an era when the Big Ten is attempting to again lay claim to having the top conference in college football, the Football Gods reminded us why the Big Ten has its own trademarked overcast chill.
On a day that would make Woody, Bo and Jim Tressel smile, No. 3 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State showcased their revived rivalry with an instant classic played out amid the overcast smog.
On a day defined by physical line play, huge swings in the kicking game and sputtering offenses, it ended in the most fitting of places—the first overtime game in the 113 years of this series. This is what Big Ten football used to be, when spread was the pregame meal and "tempo" was the loaner car from the local dealership.
Considering the ferociousness of this rivalry, the College Football Playoff stakes and the cunning plot twists, this was one of the best games in recent memory. Store this away as an instant classic in a century-old rivalry, the kind they make documentaries and oral histories about.
Curtis Samuel ran the ball 15 yards for a touchdown in the second overtime, capping a 30–27 victory and perhaps the most improbable comeback in the history of this rivalry. It wasn’t just that Ohio State trailed 17–7 late in the third quarter, it was the complete offensive ineptitude it overcame to string together the comeback. Ohio State failed to score on its first eight possessions, and Michigan finished the day with eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
But Ohio State strung together a late drive to tie the game with one second remaining, as J.T. Barrett redeemed himself on a day where he spent too much time as a Wolverine piñata. He finished 15-for-32 for 124 passing yards and one interception to go along with 30 carries for 125 yards and one touchdown.
As time went out in regulation, former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce screamed, “OH MY GOD!” in the press box, a fitting summary of a game that defied conventional description.
Ohio State tied the game on a 23-yard field goal by Tyler Durbin with one second left in regulation, redeeming himself for two earlier misses after missing just one all season. After getting bullied and pushed around all afternoon, Barrett led Ohio State on a pair of inspired late drives. The first one ended with Durbin missing a 20-yard field goal to keep Michigan’s lead at 17–14 early in the fourth quarter.
That built the tension for the crescendo of the second drive. Ohio State took over with 5:36 remaining and Barrett marched Ohio State 77 yards on 13 plays, a drive that began with a sack and was stalled by a false start penalty and a sack in the red zone. Barrett played miserably for most of the day, harassed and stymied by endless Michigan blitzers. But he delivered most when it mattered.
That included overtime, as Ohio State streaked out to a lead to start on a 7-yard touchdown run up the middle by Barrett. Michigan answered to tie the game on a fourth-and-5 touchdown pass from Wilson Speight to Amara Darboh.
The day’s biggest drama may have come when Ohio State went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Michigan 16, as Meyer apparently didn’t trust Durbin to tie the game. Barrett appeared to stumble and barely got the first down, with a review holding the 110,000 in the Shoe captive in silence. Once Barrett’s first down was confirmed, Samuel squirted around the left end for the game-winning 15-yard score on the next play.
The victory should be enough to allow Ohio State to advance to the playoff. According to CFP guidelines, the Buckeyes need to be “unequivocally one of the four best teams in the country.” Ohio State will finish the regular season 11–1, with its lone loss coming at Penn State, which advanced to the Big Ten Title game with its win over Michigan State on Saturday. No. 2 Ohio State is so far ahead of the No. 7 Nittany Lions that even a victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game may not allow them to leapfrog Ohio State in the playoff rankings.
For most of the day, Ohio State rekindled bad memories from its loss to Michigan State here last year when it ignored Ezekiel Elliott and squandered a Playoff chance. But Ohio State overcame its offensive drought, offensive ineptitude and the fans stormed the field at the end of the game, swaying to “Sweet Caroline” and wanting to linger forever.
The College Football Playoff committee will ultimately determine if Ohio State is unequivocally one of the four best teams in the country. But on this day, as the crowd chanted, “SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD" the Buckeyes unequivocally landed one of the best wins in program history.
On a throwback day for the Big Ten, Ohio State and Michigan delivered a performance for the ages.